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Deliberatepixel / The Obligatory Sex and the City Post

The Obligatory Sex and the City Post

I suppose as a blogger who regularly dispenses unsolicited opinions about female issues in film media, the premiere of the Sex and the City movie means I have to do this.

In one of my last semesters of college, I lived in a house with about ten other young women. In our living room, there was a communal DVD set of several seasons of Sex and the City. On any given evening, you could generally find at least one house resident watching them, which usually attracted others. This is how I first encountered the show - in the center of a circle of other young women working out their lives and identities. We loved the characters' friendship, mistakes, and freedom. We aspired to it. And their stories became our own mythology. What woman of our age with even a passing familiarity with SATC hasn't found herself thinking at some occasion in her life: "This is just like what happened to Carrie."

Years later, though, I see this show in a much different light. What I notice now is the rampant materialism, the borderline neurotic navel-gazing, and the way that, for all the characters' independence, they still end up conforming to established cultural norms for women revolving around monogamy, marriage, and motherhood. There is a lot of discussion in the show about women's roles, and each character breaks the mold in her own little ways. But, as the show progressed, and as the movie reviews pour in, it seems apparent that the saga is more talk about redefining women's roles than demonstrated action about it.

There is nothing really wrong with this, as it is. But, due to those little mold-breaking ways, SATC has a reputation as a feminist influence. In terms of feminism, I think it does more damage than it does good. It paints a pretty picture, but does little to challenge the underlying social structure that feminism questions. The sexually-liberated career women are still variously fixated on marriage, maxing out credit cards, and, frankly, themselves. It's similar to the storm that recently broke out in the feminist blogosphere about the dismissal of minority feminists by leading, more privileged, white feminists. Whoever thinks SATC is feminist needs to seriously expand her understanding of the battles feminism is up against. And it's exactly this insular quality that keeps the show from being anything but a lip-service fantasy.

I don't have a particular objection to Manolos, or to marriage. But I do have an objection to these things touted as the only expected or possible end of women's stories. SATC has fetishized a fantastic lifestyle that moves comfortably within the establishment. It's entertaining. It's worthwhile. But it's not feminist.

And, most importantly to me, it's not the type of women's stories I want to see from Hollywood. There are a lot of women filmmakers out there working way too hard to get serious, female-focused dramas on screen in an environment mostly open to only romantic and/or quirky comedies and period pieces. SATC: The Movie is going to bring women to the theaters in droves. But it's also going to give Hollywood the message that all women audiences are worth is more froth, more fluff, and less feminism. And it will do nothing to gain more respect for female-focused movies from male audiences, which is something women filmmakers absolutely have to do in order to move forward.

I'll probably watch this film, much farther down the road. But I'm already disappointed - and hopeful that the next generation of women gets a better set of stories to use as their own mythological touchstone.



Brinstar · 15 May, 01:48 PM · #

I agree with you about SATC. I had a flatmate who watched it all the time, and I did enjoy it as well back when I was at university. I wasn’t as aware of gender and feminism in those days, and now when I rethink criticize the media I consumed back then, I find that there’s a lot of problematic content.

Todd A · 15 May, 04:19 PM · #

Am I wrong in thinking that the reason the show appeals to college-age women is because it represents a fashionable parallel of their lives, albeit without the schooling?

Women I know who have absolutely nothing in common with SATC’s “three hookers and their mother” (as Brian from Family Guy described the show) really responded to it in college. I don’t know if those same friends of mine would have responded to the show once they’d graduated and felt the pains of real independence and responsibility.

Jen · 20 May, 09:35 AM · #

Todd, I think you’re right about the appeal of the fantasy element. Especially landlocked Midwesterners and often financially struggling students like my friends and I were. Now that I know what it’s like be all grown up and responsible, I definitely don’t find it as worthwhile. Plus – Carrie buying hundreds of dollars worth of shoes on a freelancer’s salary? Please.

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